[chohl-yah, -yuh; Spanish chaw-yah]
noun, plural chollas [chohl-yahz, -yuhz; Spanish chaw-yahs] .
any of several spiny treelike cacti belonging to the genus Opuntia, especially O. fulgida of the southwestern U.S. and Mexico, having knobby outgrowths and yellow spines.

1855–60, Americanism; < Mexican Spanish cholla head (perhaps < Old French (dial.) cholle ball < Gmc); see keel1 Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
cholla (ˈtʃəʊljɑː, Spanish ˈtʃoʎa)
See also prickly pear any of several spiny cacti of the genus Opuntia that grow in the southwestern US and Mexico and have cylindrical stem segments
[Mexican Spanish, from Spanish: head, perhaps from Old French (dialect) cholle ball, of Germanic origin]

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
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Example sentences
But its first trials are being held here on a desert track that runs amid the
  cholla cactus and the rattlesnakes.
Teddy bear cholla, so named for its fuzzy appearance from a profusion of
  thorns, perched on the edge of rocky ledges.
Pack rats will also fortify their dens with menacing pieces of spiny cholla
  cactus to fend off coyotes and other malefactors.
Historically cholla was considered a famine food, eaten only when food was
  especially scarce.
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